Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Overeaters Anonymous

It's hard to admit that you have a problem that can't be quickly or easily solved. When I first joined Weight Watchers, 60+ pounds ago, I couldn't even begin to think about tackling the root causes of my weight issues; I was just focused on making "baby steps" towards getting healthy.

Tracking points, starting up an exercise routine and weighing in on a weekly basis consumed my entire attention. Ask anyone you like, I was obsessed with Weight Watchers. I carried both my starter companion books with me in my over-sized purse. I liked telling people how many points they were eating (whether they wanted to know or not). I refused to eat out (to a great extent) because I couldn't accurately count the point values. I stopped putting butter on my English muffins.

Clearly, I had gone a bit nutso=)

Fast forward one year. By this point, I had memorized the Weight Watcher plan. I knew the basics of living healthy and more importantly I had developed strategies that worked for me. But I was still struggling with the all-too-frequent compulsion to eat large quantities of food in secret. I still sought the comfort that stuffing myself with an unlimited amount of [insert random food here] brought. I still struggled with the feelings of guilt and shame that I encountered every. single. time. I succumbed to binges.

And when I brought the issue up at Weight Watcher meetings, I got kindhearted, but perplexed, feedback. Very few people seemed to understand the compulsive nature of my problem. They assumed that there was some logical reason that explained my binges. But of course, compulsive eating, by definition, is irrational.

That's when I decided to go to Overeaters Anonymous. As per usual, I made this decision fairly last minute. I found the meeting on Monday afternoon, and I decided to just drive straight there after work. The meeting was held in a church (which kind of put me off since I'm not religious) and when I got there 15 minutes early, the church was deserted and all of the doors were locked. I almost drove home right then, but I decided to stick around until 5:30. So I waited, tense and nervous, smoking a cigarette in the church parking lot.

And then someone drove up. A thin, clearly pregnant woman, stepped out of a car and I hopefully asked if she was there for "the meeting." She nodded enthusiastically and mentioned that no one really showed up until 5:30. So we waited. All of a sudden four or five cars pulled into the parking lot and a bunch of people walked up to the church. I met Jill, the leader, who warmly welcomed me to the meeting and quickly put me at ease.

We walked into the church basement and entered a cozy room with couches and comfy chairs, arranged in a circle. I expected an auditorium with a microphone (like AA meetings I've seen on tv) but this was much less intimidating. I took a seat on the couch, and Jill handed me some information to read (meeting times, etc...) I looked around the room at the other members. There were about eight people there, six women and two men, ranging from the very thin pregnant woman to a more overweight, young, redheaded girl.

The meeting was very structured. The leader read the OA mission statement, talked about OA events, and then we proceeded to read from a book called The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Each person (if they so chose) read a section of the book (as long a section as they liked), and then they could discuss how the passage applied to their own life experience (if they so chose). It was incredibly moving. First off, I felt like I could have written the book. It wasn't sappy or overly academic--it just described the experience of compulsive eating, the guilt and shame associated with the action, and the ways we have tried to solve the problem.

It was amazing to hear from strangers in my community, as they told stories about how they struggled with resisting the muffins in the break room and hid the evidence of their binges from loved ones. And perhaps most importantly, it was empowering and freeing to openly confide my own secrets and have others listen without judgment, but rather with empathy and understanding. They've been there too.

And after the meeting, when everyone had warmly welcomed me and the leader Jill gave me a hug, I sat around and talked to the other members. We exchanged stories--funny ones and sad ones too--and it was uplifting to be able to openly and honestly talk about my own struggles and accomplishments. Before I left, I exchanged telephone numbers with a few people from the meeting, and yesterday I received this text from Jill: "Good Morning! Hope you're doing well! It was so great to meet you last night! Hope to see you again...You're not alone =)"

Overall, it was a great experience, and I'm definitely going back next week.


  1. Wow thank you for sharing this Katie! I've always been intrigued by OA meetings but never had the courage to attend one. I too pictured it being like the AA meetings I've seen on TV where you stand up at the mic and say "Hi My name is Beth and I am a compulsive eater." Glad to know it's not like that! I'm really looking forward to hearing more about how the meetings go for you!

  2. Good for you, Katie!! It's not easy to take that step, but you are strong for taking it!!

    Good luck!

  3. That feeling of not being alone is unmatched by any other thing. That shared experience- gosh it must be one of my favorite parts of life. Thanks for telling us all about it, Katie :)

  4. Good For you Katie! I'm glad you shared that, and found something that will hopefully help you out!

    I think it is very easy to get too obsessed with WW, both my sisters have developed quasi eating disorders from getting too into it, and tracking and depriving to the point of no return. You have to find that balance, because both ends of the spectrum aren't healty. Good luck!

  5. I'm glad that OA was so great for you~!

  6. Thanks for sharing this info Katie! Sounds like it's going to be a great place for you!